NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A so-called coronavirus "SWAT team" is heading to SUNY Oneonta after the school suspended all in-person activities, including on-campus learning, for two weeks amid a spike in coronavirus cases following prohibited parties, officials said.
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said Sunday that at least 105 positive cases have been confirmed—about 3 percent of the total students and faculty at the school.
“We will assess the situation working with the state and local health departments after two weeks,” Malatras said.Malatras said the spike in cases came after reports of several large parties and gatherings in and around the campus last week.
Five students have been suspended for holding parties against the college policy. Three organizations have also been suspended.
“Our campus-wide testing results give confirmation to our growing concern that SUNY Oneonta was at risk for more coronavirus cases as a few students blatantly ignored guidelines to keep the campus safe,” said Malatras. “We know that the vast majority of students at SUNY Oneonta – and across our system – recognize the importance of COVID-19 safety protocols, and now we need full compliance. Those who engage in selfish, irresponsible behavior will face consequences.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has deployed what he calls a "SWAT team" of 71 contact tracers and eight case investigators to help with the situation.
"Colleges are the canary in the coal mine, and a 3 percent infection rate is high in a congregate situation, similar to a dense urban environment where you have people taking public transportation. That's why we're deploying state resources to contain the new COVID cluster at SUNY Oneonta," Cuomo said. "I think the Chancellor is doing the exact right thing at Oneonta and I think he's taking the right actions across SUNY, and I think the private colleges should really follow the example."
Three rapid-result testing facilities are also being set up so any resident of the campus community can be given a 15-minute test.
Testing will start Wednesday and will be free.
The three new sites are located at:
Oneonta Armory 4 Academy St Oneonta, NY 13820
Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center 24 Market St Oneonta, NY 13820
St. James Church 305 Main St Oneonta, NY 13820
Testing is by appointment only. New Yorkers can call 833-NYSTRNG to make an appointment.
The University at Albany, another SUNY campus, also announced Sunday that four students were temporarily suspended from campus after officials investigated large off-campus gatherings over the weekend.